REVIEW: Django Bates' Belovèd Trio with Marius Neset and Claire Huguenin at Wigmore Hall

The curtain all. L-R Django Bates
Claire Huguenin, Petter Eldh, Marius Neset, Pieter Bruun

Django Bates' Belovèd Trio with Marius Neset and Claire Huguenin
(Wigmore Hall. 9 June 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Django Bates' two most recent albums have, as Mike Flynn's thoughtful programme note for last night's concert elucidated, been at the opposite ends of the maximalist/minimalist scale. At the maxi end, the Saluting Sgt. Pepper album with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, surprising many people with how close it stayed to the original, feels in retrospect like a discrete world on its own within Django Bates' oeuvre. But perhaps in its very different way, The Study of Touch (reviewed here by Jon Turney) does too. It is at least in part a conscious and knowing nod to the aesthetic of ECM, the label for whom it is Bates' debut recording as leader. It has the ECM hallmark of spaciousness and reflectiveness; it was recorded in Rainbow Studio in Oslo; it was produced by Manfred Eicher. The story of the confluence of many events both short- and long-term by which it came about is told in this interview for Jazzthetik.

But live, as ever, is very different. As Django Bates explained in a 2010 interview with Ethan Iverson: "It’s meant to be an event; you’ve left your home to go and see something happen. It would be quite strange to purposefully leave home and go somewhere in order to see nothing happen." And that spirit of making a concert into a real occasion was very much the spirit in which Bates and his band approached the Wigmore concert, possibly encouraged by an impressive number of London musicians.

The concert, in the form of a single set lasting around 100 minutes, also showed that the trio recording isn't really a world apart at all, but works its way back into the broader context of his work. And that is mainly due to the fact that all of the musicians on stage know the twists and turns, the ethos and the style, and the complexity of his work so well. And they are able to let the joy, lightness and fleet-footedness of Django Bates' imagination shine through at every turn.

The individual instrumental feats were jaw-dropping. Anyone who still maintains that a drum kit can't sound right in the Wigmore Hall was proved wrong last night. Time and again – and particularly in the bass-riff-led tune The Study of Touch – I was impressed by the sheer presence in the sound of Petter Eldh. Marius Neset has that special way of owning a line to the extent that it sounds as if he has composed it. The technical feats were there too: I may have been mistaken but at one point I am convinced that I saw Marius Neset extending the range of the tenor saxophone below concert Ab by somehow contorting his knee into the bell. Can that really be true?

Vocalist Claire Huguenin was a new name to me and I imagine to most of the audience. Bates has explained that she was a student in Berne "in her final time there when I arrived", and that his new wry yet sly arrangement of Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' was written for her. She has an impressive range of mood and style from the most lyrical and gentle to righteous anger somewhere on the way that leads to Erika Stucky.

 This was a very welcome return by London's prodigious prodigal son. 

SET LIST

Sadness All The Way Up
Giorgiantics (with Marius Neset)
The Times They Are A’Changing - Bob Dylan, arr. (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
Fascinate Me (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
The Study of Touch (with Marius Neset)
This Feels Like The End (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
Golden Slumbers (piano)
Quiet Nights - Jobim, arr. (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
Never-Ending Strife (with Marius Neset)
Little Petherick (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
Slippage Street (with Marius Neset)
Senza Bitterness (trio)
I Could Write (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
Weird World (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
We Are Not Lost (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)
You Live And Learn (Trio/Marius Neset/Claire Huguenin)

Encore: From Chaos Anything Is Possible (Trio / Marius Neset / Claire Huguenin)

1 comment:

  1. I have to put my hand up to an error in the first version of this review, which has kindly been flagged up by Steven Cantor on Django Bates' Facebook feed, and I have amended.

    I was aware that Manfred Eicher had supervised the recording sessions, but was wrong to state that he had engineered the album. The data for The Study of Touch do indeed state:

    Producer: Manfred Eicher
    Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug

    Sebastian

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